The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 5, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU’s Woods relishes first touchdown

MORGANTOWN — In the scheme of things, J.D. Woods’ touchdown on Saturday in West Virginia University’s season-opening 31-0 walkover against Coastal Carolina is somewhat insignificant.

It will never challenge “The Play” that Major Harris made against Penn State, nor will it match any of the heroics that came from the birth of Rich Rodriguez’s powerhouse as Steve Slaton and Patrick White roared from behind to beat Louisville.

They won’t speak of it 30 years from now the way they speak of the way Jeff Hostetler’s bootleg beat Pitt in 1983 or the way they will talk about Tyler Bitancurt’s game-winning field goal as time expired to beat Pitt last year.

But to Woods, a redshirt sophomore from Naples, Fla., it was all of that put into one.

How often is it, after all, that your first collegiate pass reception is a touchdown pass? The last time it happened at WVU was when Tyler Urban did the same thing against Rutgers in 2008.

This, however, had some bells and whistles to go with it.

To begin with, it was Geno Smith’s first touchdown pass as a starting quarterback, the first of what must be many, considering the direction WVU’s offense has taken under Jeff Mullen, who is a throw-first, run-second offensive coordinator.

And it was also the first touchdown of the season for West Virginia.

Now you may be wondering just who this J.D. Woods guy is, considering that you’ve been bombarded with stories about other more high-profile young receivers like Ivan McCarty, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.

The fact of the matter is that he actually is listed as a starter when they go to their four-wide receiver sets, and in this game he was the first substitute coach Bill Stewart used this season, although it took seven plays for Stewart to send him in.

That came in the middle of a 16-play drive to open the game, one where the Mountaineers just pecked away at the defense — probing here, running there.

Finally, they got down to the Coastal Carolina 4, fourth and goal, coming after Noel Devine had lost three yards trying the right side.

“I thought we were going to kick (a field goal),” Woods admitted.

Certainly, that seemed like the right move at the moment for you surely didn’t want to waste a 16-play drive, especially after failing to go to your jumbo formation with two fullbacks that you had worked so hard on all spring and summer for goal line plays.

“I was just standing there on the sideline and heard them call ‘Cheetah! Cheetah!” Woods said.

That was a formation and play that not only required him to be on the field, but that went to him.

“I heard that and I ran out onto the field,” he said.

He also had an idea that this would be his big moment.

“I had a great feeling about that play because it had been open all week in practice,” he said.

Woods ran to the goal line, spun to the outside. Smith spotted him and threw the ball.

“It seemed like the ball was in the air forever,” Woods admitted.

He leaped. No, it was more like he floated into the air like some undersized Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float, latching onto the football with his big hands and coming down with easily an inch, maybe an inch and a half to spare.

The official threw his hands into the air, and Woods looked toward him.

Not thinking about the souvenir he could have had, he simply flipped the ball to the official and ran off the field, where he was greeted by teammates and wide receiver coach Lonnie Galloway.

Position coaches are sometimes spoil sports, and this was one of those moments.

“Nice going,” said Galloway. “Now, you’ve got to do a lot more. There’s a lot of game left.”

That didn’t give him much time to come down from that cloud he was riding on, a cloud he probably didn’t expect to be on this quickly.

He did admit that he dreamed about the game the night before, but it was more in running his routes and executing, not standing there slapping hands and high-fiving teammates.

In a way, though, there was some symbolism in him scoring the first TD on a reception, a hint that times are changing and that a new offense is in, that new receivers are on the scene and that WVU, which had been a run-first, power-football school with Rich Rodriguez and before him Don Nehlen was now moving toward a different philosophy with different kinds of players.

You might say that time will let them know if that’s the right direction to take, but it won’t be time that tells them whether they are right or wrong.

The opponents will.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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